A birthday countdown is a fun way to get your kiddo even more excited about the big day, and a great way to give them a little extra attention on the days leading up to their birthday. If your child’s birthday coincides with other big holidays or events, this is an even more important way to showcase them when they might otherwise feel a little less important.

13 Awesome Birthday Countdown Ideas for Kids

I’ve separated these ideas into categories from the easiest and simplest to the more complex. If you haven’t started the tradition before, it might be easier to do a simple coundown first and get fancier as they get older.

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4 Easy DIY Birthday Countdown Ideas

13 DIY Birthday Countdown Ideas Your Kid Will Love, simple to complex birthday advent calendar ideas to build your kid's pre-birthday excitement #birthdaypartyideas #kidsbirthday #toddlerbirthday

The birthday countdown chain is a pretty popular theme (each chain says something like “10 more days until my birthday!”) so you can find tons of tutorials on that one, but I’m loving how cute this one is! The fancy tiered birthday cake at the top and paper balloons floating around it really take a simple chain up a few notches. Get the free templates for all of the pieces over here.

13 DIY Birthday Countdown Ideas Your Kid Will Love, simple to complex birthday advent calendar ideas to build your kid's pre-birthday excitement #birthdaypartyideas #kidsbirthday #toddlerbirthday

Here’s another chain variation, with dots that count down the days attached to a piece of string or ribbon that you cut each day, leading up to a paper cake with a candle representing the birthday kiddo’s new age. This tutorial is in Russian but the photos are very self explanatory and easy to follow. I love how they matched the paper cake to the actual birthday cake!

13 DIY Birthday Countdown Ideas Your Kid Will Love, simple to complex birthday advent calendar ideas to build your kid's pre-birthday excitement #birthdaypartyideas #kidsbirthday #toddlerbirthday

Make a countdown clock by writing the days left on a chalkboard in the kitchen or wherever your family spends a lot of time. Or buy one like these chalkboard blocks or this digital clock (which is incredibly boring-looking, but you could tape a piece of colorful paper to the bottom and write “Until Name’s Birthday!” on it).

13 DIY Birthday Countdown Ideas Your Kid Will Love, simple to complex birthday advent calendar ideas to build your kid's pre-birthday excitement #birthdaypartyideas #kidsbirthday #toddlerbirthday

Here’s another countdown clock idea that’s more like those daily calendar notepads. It’s custom so there’s a little work involved, but pretty simple for such a cute outcome! I like how you can use this for any countdown. The full tutorial is here.

9 Surprise-filled Birthday Countdown Ideas

A lot of these more complex ideas could also be called birthday advent calendars. They are a twist on the typically Christmas-themed countdown with little gifts or notes behind numbered doors. The items inside could be little gifts, candy, or slips of paper with affirmations or family activities inside.

A few ways to customize these ideas:

  • Change the number of days to fit how you want to celebrate – do you do birthday week or is 10 days better? Or go for a full month!
  • Add your child’s favorite treats or little gifts inside (my son for example is super into tape right now so I found this giant box of mini washi tape rolls that I’m putting in his Easter eggs)
  • Instead of items, include notes of paper that list a special family activity to do each day leading up to the big day. I have a long list of pre-birthday activities to include at the bottom of this post.
  • Customize the look of any of these to match your kiddo’s favorite colors or their birthday party theme (add some monster stickers for a monster birthday or rainbow colors with glitter for your unicorn fan).

13 DIY Birthday Countdown Ideas Your Kid Will Love, simple to complex birthday advent calendar ideas to build your kid's pre-birthday excitement #birthdaypartyideas #kidsbirthday #toddlerbirthday

This one is modern and simple and won’t take much time at all. Simply fill brown paper bags with gifts or notes and fold them over ribbon or string attached to the wall. (You could attach them via clothespins as well, if the items inside are heavy or you want to make it easier for the birthday kiddo to take down.)

13 DIY Birthday Countdown Ideas Your Kid Will Love, simple to complex birthday advent calendar ideas to build your kid's pre-birthday excitement #birthdaypartyideas #kidsbirthday #toddlerbirthday

This calendar uses scrapbook paper to make conical pockets (that look like party hats!) I would hang them up by clothespins so you can take down the entire pocket when that day rolls around so it’s easier to see how many days are left.

13 DIY Birthday Countdown Ideas Your Kid Will Love, simple to complex birthday advent calendar ideas to build your kid's pre-birthday excitement #birthdaypartyideas #kidsbirthday #toddlerbirthday

You could also make one similar to this with small gift boxes glued to a posterboard backing, with fun colored paper on the front.

13 DIY Birthday Countdown Ideas Your Kid Will Love, simple to complex birthday advent calendar ideas to build your kid's pre-birthday excitement #birthdaypartyideas #kidsbirthday #toddlerbirthday

Or forgo attaching the boxes to anything and just give the birthday kiddo a new one each day. These cute sliding gift boxes are perfect for holding tiny gifts or notes. See the tutorial here.

13 DIY Birthday Countdown Ideas Your Kid Will Love, simple to complex birthday advent calendar ideas to build your kid's pre-birthday excitement #birthdaypartyideas #kidsbirthday #toddlerbirthday

Here’s an easy one using toilet paper tubes and tissue paper. Scroll to #12 to find the simple steps. Since you’re attaching the tissue paper with rubber bands, not glue, you could totally re-use this one for other holidays and birthdays.

13 DIY Birthday Countdown Ideas Your Kid Will Love, simple to complex birthday advent calendar ideas to build your kid's pre-birthday excitement #birthdaypartyideas #kidsbirthday #toddlerbirthday

Another toilet paper recycling idea – wrap the tubes up with tissue paper so they look like big candies. This looks simple and very cute! You could wrap them in scrapbook paper like suggested or even use colorful tape.

13 DIY Birthday Countdown Ideas Your Kid Will Love, simple to complex birthday advent calendar ideas to build your kid's pre-birthday excitement #birthdaypartyideas #kidsbirthday #toddlerbirthday

Swap out the toilet paper rolls for balloons for this fun balloon pop countdown. Add little trinkets and notes to the balloon before blowing it up.

13 DIY Birthday Countdown Ideas Your Kid Will Love, simple to complex birthday advent calendar ideas to build your kid's pre-birthday excitement #birthdaypartyideas #kidsbirthday #toddlerbirthday

If you plan for all of the surprises to be paper items, like notes or activities, this train countdown is adorable! Simply print a train coloring page and attach colorful envelope “cars” to the wall with masking tape. See the full instructions here.

13 DIY Birthday Countdown Ideas Your Kid Will Love, simple to complex birthday advent calendar ideas to build your kid's pre-birthday excitement #birthdaypartyideas #kidsbirthday #toddlerbirthday

And now for the MOTHER of all birthday advent calendars. This one was actually created to be a birthday gift – meant for the birthday kid to open starting on their birthday, with a new mini gift each day for a month afterward. But the technique she used can really be done for pre-birthday surprises as well. I love the idea of the little doors and tissue paper to punch through. Though I doubt I’d ever feel the urge to go through all this trouble, haha. See the detailed tutorial here.

Pre-Birthday Activity Ideas

If you plan to write some pre-birthday activities as a part of your countdown, here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Going to their favorite playground
  • Making their favorite food for dinner
  • Pancakes or donuts for a special birthday breakfast
  • Eating at their favorite restaurant
  • Having a movie and popcorn night
  • Doing a craft/art project together
  • Make ice cream sundaes
  • Special mom and kid date
  • Special dad and kid date
  • Reading a special book (maybe a birthday-themed book you only pull out on birthday month)
  • Bake and decorate cookies (to put out at the party or wrap as party favors for guests)
  • Make DIY decor together (a sign for the front door, a birthday banner, garland, punch out confetti, blow up balloons)
  • Bake a cake or cupcakes together the day before the party

What is your favorite birthday week tradition? Any activity ideas I should add to my list?

And don’t forget a special birthday shirt to show off their new age!

13 DIY Birthday Countdown Ideas Your Kid Will Love, simple to complex birthday advent calendar ideas to build your kid's pre-birthday excitement #birthdaypartyideas #kidsbirthday #toddlerbirthday